West Palm Beach Fraud Defense Lawyer
Federal criminal attorneys protecting your rights in Florida
Fraud is a term that generally describes an act of misrepresentation that is intended to deprive another party of money, property, or some other benefit. A person who is accused of fraud may be charged under state and federal law. Federal fraud convictions carry the most severe sentencing and may result in the individual being handed a prison sentence of 10 or more years along with paying up to $1 million in fines. In recent years, partly fueled by the 2008 economic crisis, the federal government has increased its scrutiny on potentially fraudulent activities that take place across multiple areas of finance and in the healthcare sector. Our West Palm Beach defense lawyers have the knowledge and successful track record to help individuals who have been formally charged or are under investigation for a federal fraud offense in Florida.
Crimes against FDIC-insured financial institutions will generally trigger federal bank fraud charges. These offenses include:
- crimes involving stolen checks
- check kiting
- counterfeiting cashier’s checks
- fraudulent money orders, credit and debt cards, and payroll checks
While one might expect people who are directly involved in a fraudulent scheme to be charged, people who were not involved in the beginning, but played a role at a later stage in the scheme may also be charged. In cases in which the scheme did not succeed or did not progress beyond the planning stage, involved parties may still be charged under federal law for conspiracy.
People and businesses who have more debt than they can handle may opt to file for bankruptcy in federal court. Declaring bankruptcy protects the filer’s finances and property from creditor lawsuits and liens against the debtor’s property. Bankruptcy court judges review the filer’s assets and debts and determine which creditors will be repaid. When a person or business conceals assets, makes false statements, or gives or receives a bribe, the individual or business has committed bankruptcy fraud. Defendants may be accused of bankruptcy fraud criminal court in addition to being named as a defendant in civil court. Nevertheless, an individual or business may only be convicted of bankruptcy if he or she intentionally engaged in the alleged deception. Therefore, someone who has accidentally given false information, omitted details, or offered a cash payment to a creditor without the intent to pay a bribe has not committed bankruptcy fraud. A Florida bankruptcy fraud lawyer can help the accused establish his or her true intent and potentially avoid conviction and civil liability.
People usually turn to their insurance company during stressful times when their property has been damaged or destroyed. Unfortunately, insurers are notorious for exercising questionable tactics in an attempt to avoid paying claimants what they are owed, especially when the payout is a relatively large amount. Sometimes, an insurance company may strictly review the claimant’s documents and allege fraud. While there are cases in which a person or business may deliberately attempt to deceive an insurance company for the purpose of collecting a payout, there are many others in which everyday people and businesses make an innocent mistake in filling out paperwork or otherwise providing information to the insurer. If the insurance company can make the case that the insured deliberately misrepresented material facts, the company may involve the federal government and pursue criminal charges. In these instances, being accused of fraud can be terrifying. Instead of panicking, people who find themselves accused of a fraud under federal law should immediately contact a West Palm Beach federal insurance fraud defense lawyer prior to speaking to anyone else regarding the case. An attorney can help people who are wrongfully accused of insurance fraud avoid the risk of self-incrimination and gather and present the evidence they need to prove their case in federal court.
Individuals and companies who engage in actions or schemes that involve falsifying information on a mortgage document for wrongful gain may be investigated for mortgage fraud. People who are suspected of involvement in mortgage fraud are often formally charged with federal bank fraud, wire fraud, or any other federal offense that specifically relates to the unique facts of the case. The federal government dramatically stepped up its efforts to detect mortgage fraud after the housing market crash of 2008. The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act grants the federal government authority to thoroughly pursue and investigate suspected instances of mortgage fraud and to strictly enforce laws that relate to this type of fraud. Real estate professionals, including mortgage brokers, appraisers, and real estate lawyers are more commonly accused of mortgage fraud. However, individual home purchasers may also be investigated. The following actions may prompt a mortgage fraud investigation:
- providing false identity or financial information;
- forging financial documents to support an application for a mortgage;
- falsely inflating a property’s appraisal value;
- using a second mortgage to make a down payment on the first mortgage without the lender’s knowledge;
- using a more qualified buyer to apply for a loan while hiding the identity of the true borrower.
Mail & wire fraud
Many federal fraud offenses are very general in nature and cover a wide variety of acts. Mail and wire fraud are very commonly applied charges that can arise out of virtually any fraudulent act that involves use of the mail or an interstate wiring service, which can include telephone, email, and money wire transfer. Therefore, people who are charged with other federal crimes such as mortgage fraud, money laundering, and bank fraud may also be convicted on a separate mail or wire fraud charge. Mail and wire fraud charges may also constitute a standalone offense. For example, if a company advertises a product by mail and collects payment for the product without ever intending to ship the merchandise, the company has committed mail fraud. Common examples of mail and wire fraud include:
- Ponzi schemes
- Pyramid schemes
- False work-at-home opportunity scams
- Free vacation giveaway scams
- Foreign lottery scams
- Chain letters
- False charities
- “Nigerian” email scam
In some cases, an individual may become caught up in a fraudulent scheme by working for a company or another person who orchestates scams that involve mail and wire fraud. If you have been contacted as a result of working for or with a company or individual who is facing fraud charges, contact a West Palm Beach mail and wire fraud defense lawyer before communicating with law enforcement or with your embattled employer or business partner.
Cryptocurrency / Bitcoin fraud
Virtual encrypted currency, or cryptocurrency, is a new frontier for law enforcement. The federal government is racing to keep up as virtual currencies and related technologies expand at lightning pace. From 2017 to 2018, the sharp increase in the value of Bitcoin created the perfect environment for fraudsters to operate as public interest peaked and consumers who had a basic knowledge of Bitcoin often were not prepared to recognize and avoid scams while navigating the crypto space. The laws that govern regulatory practices and record-keeping requirements are ever evolving; therefore, it is difficult for people who use cryptocurrency for business and for general commerce reasons to know what is permitted and what is not. In other cases, there are people who act in many different ways with the intent to defraud others who simply want to buy, sell, and invest in virtual currency. The following are a few examples of what cryptocurrency fraud can look like:
- fraudulent exchanges that are designed to steal people’s crypto coins;
- pump and dump schemes;
- ICOs (initial coin offerings) that falsely inflate the value of a crypto coin;
- selling and promoting coins that do not actually exist;
- impersonating trusted cryptocurrency company accounts on social media.
With the rising cost of health services in the U.S., the number of health care fraud cases also increases each year. Most healthcare fraud is committed by organized criminal groups and a small percentage of healthcare providers. Government and private insurers in South Florida have lost hundreds of millions of dollars due to organized crime rings stealing patient data and filing false claims on behalf of fabricated clinics that do not actually exist. Example of ways in which providers commit healthcare fraud include:
- medical providers ordering unnecessary tests and procedures and billing the patient’s insurance company;
- upcoding, or billing for more expensive services than the patient actually received;
- misrepresenting procedures that are not covered as necessary treatments;
- falsely diagnosing patients for the purpose of ordering additional tests and treatments;
- unbunding, or billing each step within the same procedure as if the procedure consists of separate treatments;
- accepting referral kickbacks;
- charging patients more than their copay;
- waiving patients’ copay and instead over-billing the insurance company.
Federal fraud charges are to be taken seriously from the start, even if you believe you have been contacted by a government agency due to mistaken identity or any other type of mix-up. Your lawyer will advise you on how to proceed in the interest of protecting your reputation and preserving your constitutional rights. In addition to being present during interviews with law enforcement, your attorney will work diligently to gather the right evidence to help you prove the facts of your case in court in a dedicated effort to obtain an outcome that is in your favor. Contacting a West Palm Beach federal fraud defense lawyer is easy. Simply make the call, and a member of the law firm staff will conduct a free, confidential case evaluation to help us determine the best legal options for your unique case.